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Frederic Sorrieu’s Dream of Democratic and Social Republics
Visualising a Utopian World through Art
- Frederic Sorrieu’s artwork depicting a utopian world of democratic and social republics
- First print of the series shows people of Europe and America paying homage to the Statue of Liberty
- Liberty personified as a female figure with the torch of Enlightenment and Charter of Rights of Man
- Shattered remains of absolutist institutions lie on the earth in the foreground
- Sorrieu’s vision groups people of the world as distinct nations identified through their flags and national costume
- Christ, saints, and angels symbolise fraternity among nations from the heavens above
- Frederic Sorrieu’s artwork provides a visual representation of a utopian world of democratic and social republics
- The emergence of nation-states and nationalism in 19th-century Europe was a complex process shaped by diverse factors
- Understanding the processes of nation-state formation is crucial to understanding the political and mental world of Europe in the 19th century.
1. The French Revolution and the Idea of the Nation
The Emergence of Nationalism during the French Revolution:
- The French Revolution (1789) marked the first clear expression of nationalism.
- France, under the rule of an absolute monarch, became a full-fledged territorial state.
- The transfer of sovereignty from the monarchy to the people led to the emergence of a sense of collective identity among the French people.
Creation of a Collective Identity:
- Measures and practices were introduced to create a sense of collective identity among the French people.
- The ideas of “la patrie” and “le citoyen” emphasized the notion of a united community with equal rights.
- The tricolour flag replaced the former royal standard, and new hymns and oaths were composed.
- A centralized administrative system was established, and uniform laws were formulated for all citizens within the territory.
- Regional dialects were discouraged, and French became the common language of the nation.
Spread of Nationalism across Europe:
- Students and educated middle-class individuals set up Jacobin clubs in different European cities.
- The activities and campaigns of the Jacobin clubs prepared the way for the French armies to move into other territories.
- Napoleon introduced many of the reforms that he had already implemented in France in the territories he controlled.
- The Napoleonic Code abolished privileges based on birth, established equality before the law, and secured the right to property.
- Administrative divisions were simplified, the feudal system was abolished, and peasants were freed from serfdom and manorial dues.
- Increased freedom for businessmen and small-scale producers facilitated the movement and exchange of goods and capital across different regions.
- Initially, the French armies were welcomed as liberators, but hostility emerged when the administrative changes did not lead to political freedom.
- Increased taxation, censorship, and forced conscription into the French armies led to mixed reactions among the local populations.
- The French Revolution marked the beginning of the emergence of nationalism.
- France introduced measures to create a collective identity among its people, which were later spread to other territories under French control.
- The administrative changes brought about by Napoleon led to increased freedom for some, but also led to mixed reactions among the local populations.
2. The Making of Nationalism in Europe
Mid-eighteenth-century Europe and the Absence of Nation-States
In the mid-eighteenth century, Europe did not have any nation-states as we know them today. Instead, the region was divided into kingdoms, duchies, and cantons, each with their own autonomous territories. Eastern and Central Europe were under autocratic monarchies, where diverse peoples lived within the boundaries of the empire.
Habsburg Empire and its Diverse Peoples
The Habsburg Empire was a patchwork of many different regions and peoples, including the Alpine regions, Austria, the Sudetenland, Bohemia, Lombardy, Venetia, Hungary, Galicia, and Transylvania. These regions had different ethnic groups, spoke different languages, and did not share a collective identity or culture. The only tie binding them together was a common allegiance to the emperor.
Emergence of Nationalism and the Nation-State
Nationalism and the idea of the nation-state emerged due to various factors, including the aristocracy and the new middle class.
Landed Aristocracy and their Common Way of Life
Socially and politically, the landed aristocracy was the dominant class in Europe. They were united by a common way of life that cut across regional divisions. They owned estates in the countryside and town-houses and spoke French for purposes of diplomacy and high society. Their families were often connected by ties of marriage.
Peasantry and Landholding Patterns in Europe
While the landed aristocracy was numerically a small group, the majority of the population was made up of the peasantry. In the west, the bulk of the land was farmed by tenants and small owners, while in Eastern and Central Europe, the pattern of landholding was characterized by vast estates that were cultivated by serfs.
- The emergence of nationalism and the idea of the nation-state was a result of the social and political landscape of mid-eighteenth-century Europe.
- The absence of modern nation-states and the diversity of peoples and languages contributed to a lack of political unity.
- The landed aristocracy and the peasantry were the two major social classes, with the former dominating the political landscape.
- The emergence of nationalism was a response to the dominant position of the landed aristocracy and the desire for political power and autonomy by the emerging middle class.
Liberal Nationalism and its Ideology
- National unity ideas linked with liberalism in early 19th-century Europe
- Liberalism emphasized freedom, equality, and government by consent
- Also stressed inviolability of private property
Individual Freedom and Equality Before the Law:
- Liberalism stood for freedom for the individual and equality of all before the law
- Politically, liberalism emphasized government by consent and an end to autocracy and clerical privileges
- Nineteenth-century liberals stressed the inviolability of private property
Universal Suffrage and Political Rights:
- Equality before the law did not necessarily mean universal suffrage
- During the French Revolution, the right to vote was granted exclusively to property-owning men
- Women and non-propertied men organized opposition movements demanding equal political rights
- Napoleonic Code went back to limited suffrage and reduced women’s status
- Liberalism stood for the freedom of markets and the abolition of state-imposed restrictions on the movement of goods and capital
- Emerging middle classes demanded the unhindered movement of goods, people, and capital
- Example: German-speaking regions in the first half of the 19th century faced obstacles to economic exchange and growth due to customs barriers and currency differences
Zollverein & Economic Nationalism:
- In 1834, a customs union or zollverein was formed at the initiative of Prussia and joined by most of the German states
- The union abolished tariff barriers and reduced the number of currencies from over thirty to two
- The creation of a network of railways further stimulated mobility, harnessing economic interests to national unification
- A wave of economic nationalism strengthened the wider nationalist sentiments growing at the time
- Liberalism and nationalism intertwined in the 19th century
- Liberalism emphasized individual freedom, equality before the law, and economic freedom
- Economic nationalism supported the idea of a unified economic territory for the unhindered movement of goods, people, and capital
A New Conservatism Emerges after 1815
- Following Napoleon’s defeat, Europe was characterized by a conservative spirit that sought to preserve traditional institutions of state and society.
- Conservatives believed that modernization could strengthen traditional institutions like the monarchy, making state power more effective and stronger.
The Congress of Vienna:
- In 1815, representatives of European powers – Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Austria – met at Vienna to draw up a settlement for Europe.
- The Congress was hosted by the Austrian Chancellor Duke Metternich.
- The delegates drew up the Treaty of Vienna of 1815 to undo most of the changes that had come about in Europe during the Napoleonic wars.
- The Bourbon dynasty was restored to power, and France lost the territories it had annexed under Napoleon.
- A series of states were set up on the boundaries of France to prevent French expansion in the future.
- The German confederation of 39 states set up by Napoleon was left untouched.
- Russia was given part of Poland while Prussia was given a portion of Saxony.
- The main intention was to restore the monarchies that had been overthrown by Napoleon and create a new conservative order in Europe.
- The conservative regimes set up in 1815 were autocratic and did not tolerate criticism and dissent.
- They sought to curb activities that questioned the legitimacy of autocratic governments.
- Censorship laws were imposed to control what was said in newspapers, books, plays, and songs.
- Most conservatives did not propose a return to the society of pre-revolutionary days.
- The memory of the French Revolution continued to inspire liberals.
- One of the major issues taken up by liberal-nationalists, who criticized the new conservative order, was freedom of the press.
- They questioned the legitimacy of autocratic governments and demanded greater political and civil liberties.
- The new conservatism that emerged after 1815 sought to preserve traditional institutions of state and society, but also recognized that modernization could strengthen these institutions.
- Conservative regimes were autocratic and sought to curb criticism and dissent.
- Liberal-nationalists, inspired by the French Revolution, questioned the legitimacy of autocratic governments and demanded greater political and civil liberties.
The Revolutionary Movement in Europe after 1815
- The suppression of liberal-nationalist ideas after the Congress of Vienna drove many to form secret societies that aimed to train revolutionaries and promote their ideas.
- This movement was marked by a commitment to oppose monarchical forms of government and fight for liberty and freedom. The creation of nation-states was seen as an essential part of this struggle for freedom.
Giuseppe Mazzini: The Italian Revolutionary
- Giuseppe Mazzini was an Italian revolutionary born in Genoa in 1807.
- He became a member of the Carbonari secret society and was exiled in 1831 for attempting a revolution in Liguria.
- He founded two more underground societies: Young Italy in Marseilles and Young Europe in Berne. The members of these societies were young men from Poland, France, Italy, and the German states who shared Mazzini’s beliefs.
Mazzini’s Vision for Italy
Mazzini believed that God intended nations to be the natural units of mankind. Italy could not continue to be a patchwork of small states and kingdoms, but had to be forged into a single unified republic within a wider alliance of nations. He saw the unification of Italy as the only way to achieve Italian liberty. Following Mazzini’s model, secret societies were established in Germany, France, Switzerland, and Poland.
Opposition to Monarchy
- Mazzini’s relentless opposition to monarchy and his vision of democratic republics frightened the conservatives.
- Metternich, a prominent conservative leader, described him as ‘the most dangerous enemy of our social order.’
- Mazzini’s revolutionary ideas posed a significant threat to the established order and challenged the legitimacy of the monarchies that had been established after the Congress of Vienna.
- The revolutionary movement that emerged in Europe after 1815 was driven by a commitment to oppose monarchical forms of government and fight for liberty and freedom.
- Giuseppe Mazzini was a prominent figure in this movement, advocating for the unification of Italy and the creation of democratic republics.
- Despite facing opposition from conservatives, the ideas of the revolutionaries paved the way for significant changes in Europe in the decades that followed.
3. The Age of Revolutions: 1830-1848
The Association of Liberalism and Nationalism with Revolution in Europe
In the 19th century, conservative regimes tried to consolidate their power, which led to the association of liberalism and nationalism with revolution in several regions of Europe. This resulted in the emergence of revolutions in many regions such as the Italian and German states, the provinces of the Ottoman Empire, Ireland, and Poland. These uprisings were led by liberal-nationalists belonging to the educated middle-class elite.
The July Revolution in France:
The first upheaval took place in France in July 1830, where the Bourbon kings, who had been restored to power during the conservative reaction after 1815, were overthrown by liberal revolutionaries. The revolutionaries installed a constitutional monarchy with Louis Philippe at its head. The July Revolution triggered an uprising in Brussels, which led to Belgium breaking away from the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Mobilization of Nationalist Feelings (The Greek war of independence):
The Greek war of independence was an event that mobilised nationalist feelings among the educated elite across Europe.
- Greece had been part of the Ottoman Empire since the fifteenth century.
- The growth of revolutionary nationalism in Europe sparked off a struggle for independence amongst the Greeks which began in 1821.
- Nationalists in Greece got support from other Greeks living in exile and also from many West Europeans who had sympathies for ancient Greek culture.
- Poets and artists lauded Greece as the cradle of European civilisation and mobilised public opinion to support its struggle against a Muslim empire.
- The Role of Lord Byron: The English poet Lord Byron played a significant role in supporting the Greek war of independence. He organised funds and later went to fight in the war, where he died of fever in 1824. Byron’s involvement in the Greek war of independence is an excellent example of how individuals can play a significant role in mobilising support for a cause.
Leaders of the Revolutions:
- The liberal-nationalists leading the revolutions belonged to the educated middle-class elite.
- Among them were professors, schoolteachers, clerks, and members of the commercial middle classes.
- These leaders understood the importance of public opinion in the success of their movements and were skilled in using media and propaganda to mobilise support.
- In conclusion, the association of liberalism and nationalism with revolution in Europe was a response to the conservative regimes trying to consolidate their power.
- The July Revolution in France and the Greek war of independence were significant events that mobilised public opinion in support of the liberal-nationalist movements.
- The involvement of individuals such as Lord Byron was also instrumental in garnering support for these causes.
- The leaders of these revolutions belonged to the educated middle-class elite and were skilled in using media and propaganda to mobilise support.
The Role of Culture in the Development of Nationalism
Nationalism did not develop only through wars and territorial expansion. Culture played an important role in creating the idea of the nation
Romanticism and Nationalist Sentiment:
- Romanticism was a cultural movement that sought to develop a particular form of nationalist sentiment
- Romantic artists and poets criticized the glorification of reason and science and focused instead on emotions, intuition, and mystical feelings
- The effort was to create a sense of shared collective heritage as the basis of a nation
Das Volk: German Romanticism:
- Johann Gottfried Herder claimed that true German culture was to be discovered among the common people – das volk
- Folk songs, folk poetry, and folk dances were essential to the project of nation-building
- Collecting and recording these forms of folk culture helped popularize the true spirit of the nation (volksgeisl)
Emphasis on Vernacular Language and Local Folklore:
- Emphasis on vernacular language and the collection of local folklore was not just to recover an ancient national spirit but also to carry the modern nationalist message to large audiences who were mostly illiterate
- Poland’s national feelings were kept alive through music and language even though it no longer existed as an independent territory
- Karol Kurpinski celebrated the national struggle through his operas and music, turning folk dances like the polonaise and mazurka into nationalist symbols
Language as a Weapon of National Resistance:
- Language played an important role in developing nationalist sentiments
- After Russian occupation, the Polish language was forced out of schools and the Russian language was imposed everywhere
- In 1831, an armed rebellion against Russian rule took place, which was ultimately crushed
- Following this, many members of the clergy in Poland began to use language as a weapon of national resistance
- Polish was used for Church gatherings and all religious instruction, and as a result, many priests and bishops were punished by the Russian authorities for their refusal to preach in Russian
- The use of Polish came to be seen as a symbol of the struggle against Russian dominance
Hunger, Hardship, and Popular Revolt in Europe
The 1830s and early 1840s were marked by economic hardship in Europe, characterized by an increase in population, job scarcity, urbanization, and competition from England’s industrialized economy. This led to widespread pauperism and peasant struggles against feudal dues and obligations. In 1848, a year of food shortages and unemployment, the population of Paris revolted, forcing Louis Philippe to flee and establishing a Republic that guaranteed suffrage and the right to work. Earlier in 1845, weavers in Silesia led a revolt against contractors who reduced their payments.
Population Growth and Job Scarcity:
- The 1830s saw a significant increase in population all over Europe.
- The number of job seekers was higher than the available employment opportunities.
- Rural to urban migration led to overcrowded slums in cities.
- Small producers in towns faced stiff competition from imported cheap machine-made goods from England, particularly in textile production.
- Textile production in Europe was mostly carried out in homes or small workshops and was only partially mechanized.
Peasant Struggles and Pauperism:
- Peasants struggled under the burden of feudal dues and obligations, particularly in regions where the aristocracy still held power.
- The rise of food prices or a year of bad harvest led to widespread pauperism in towns and the countryside.
The 1848 Paris Revolt (February Revolution):
- In 1848, a year of food shortages and unemployment, the population of Paris took to the streets.
- Barricades were erected, and Louis Philippe was forced to flee.
- A National Assembly proclaimed a Republic, granted suffrage to all adult males above 21, and guaranteed the right to work.
- National workshops were set up to provide employment.
The Silesia Weavers’ Revolt:
- In 1845, weavers in Silesia revolted against contractors who reduced their payments.
- The weavers were mostly engaged in cotton weaving, which was the most widespread occupation in the villages.
- The weavers’ misery was extreme, and the contractors took advantage of their need for jobs to reduce the prices of the goods they ordered.
- On June 4, 1845, a large crowd of weavers marched to their contractor’s mansion demanding higher wages.
- The contractor treated them with scorn and threats.
- A group of weavers forced their way into the house and smashed its elegant windows, furniture, and porcelain.
- Another group broke into the storehouse and plundered it of supplies of cloth, which they tore to shreds.
- The contractor fled with his family to a neighbouring village, which refused to shelter him.
- He returned 24 hours later having requisitioned the army.
- In the exchange that followed, eleven weavers were shot.
Conclusion: The 1830s and early 1840s were marked by economic hardship in Europe, which led to popular revolts and uprisings against the ruling classes. The Paris Revolt of 1848 and the Silesia Weavers’ Revolt of 1845 were two examples of the popular movements that emerged in response to the widespread pauperism and poverty resulting from the economic conditions of the time.
1848: The Revolution of the Liberals
- In 1848, Europe witnessed a series of revolts by various social groups.
- This note will focus on the revolution led by the educated middle classes, specifically in Germany, Italy, Poland, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
The Revolution of the Liberals:
- The February 1848 revolution in France led to the abdication of the monarch and the proclamation of a republic based on universal male suffrage.
- In other parts of Europe, men and women of the liberal middle classes demanded constitutionalism and national unification.
- They pushed for the creation of a nation-state on parliamentary principles, including a constitution, freedom of the press, and freedom of association.
- The social basis of parliament eroded as the middle classes dominated the parliament and resisted the demands of workers and artisans.
The Frankfurt Parliament:
- In the German regions, political associations of middle-class professionals, businessmen, and prosperous artisans came together in the city of Frankfurt.
- They decided to vote for an all-German National Assembly, and on 18 May 1848, 831 elected representatives marched in a festive procession to take their places in the Frankfurt parliament.
- They drafted a constitution for a German nation to be headed by a monarchy subject to a parliament.
- When the deputies offered the crown on these terms to Friedrich Wilhelm IV, King of Prussia, he rejected it and joined other monarchs to oppose the elected assembly.
The Role of Women:
- The issue of extending political rights to women was controversial within the liberal movement.
- Large numbers of women had participated actively in the movement, forming their own political associations, founding newspapers, and taking part in political meetings and demonstrations.
- Despite this, women were denied suffrage rights during the election of the Assembly, and when the Frankfurt parliament convened, they were admitted only as observers to stand in the visitors’ gallery.
Aftermath of Revolts:
- Although conservative forces were able to suppress the liberal movements in 1848, they could not restore the old order.
- Monarchs began to realise that the cycles of revolution and repression could only be ended by granting concessions to the liberal-nationalist revolutionaries.
- The autocratic monarchies of Central and Eastern Europe began to introduce changes that had already taken place in Western Europe before 1815, such as abolishing serfdom and bonded labour.
- The Habsburg rulers granted more autonomy to the Hungarians in 1867.
4. The Making of Germany and Italy
1. Germany – Unification Through State Power
- After 1848, nationalism in Europe became associated with state power rather than democracy and revolution
- Germany and Italy’s unification as nation-states reflects this trend
- Middle-class Germans attempted to unite the German confederation into a nation-state governed by an elected parliament in 1848
- Prussian monarchy, military, and large landowners repressed this liberal initiative to nation-building
- Prussia took on the leadership of the movement for national unification with the help of the Prussian army and bureaucracy
Prussian Leadership in National Unification
- Chief minister Otto von Bismarck was the architect of the unification process
- Prussian army and bureaucracy played a significant role in the unification
- Three wars with Austria, Denmark, and France over seven years led to Prussian victory and completed the process of unification
- Prussian king, William I, was proclaimed German Emperor in a ceremony held at Versailles on January 1871
Nation-building Process in Germany
- Prussian state power dominated the nation-building process
- Strong emphasis was placed on modernizing the currency, banking, legal, and judicial systems in Germany
- Prussian measures and practices often became a model for the rest of Germany
- Germany’s nation-building process reflects the dominance of state power in nationalism
- Prussian leadership and military played a crucial role in the unification process
- The new German state placed an emphasis on modernization, with Prussian measures and practices serving as a model for the rest of the country
2. Italy’s Political Fragmentation and Unification
Italy’s Political Fragmentation:
- Italy had a long history of political fragmentation similar to Germany.
- Italians were scattered over several dynastic states as well as the multi-national Habsburg Empire.
- During the mid-19th century, Italy was divided into seven states, of which only one was ruled by an Italian princely house.
- The north was under Austrian Habsburgs, the centre was ruled by the Pope, and the southern regions were under the domination of the Bourbon kings of Spain.
- Language and Regional Variations: Even the Italian language had not acquired one common form and still had many regional and local variations.
Mazzini and Young Italy:
- During the 1830s, Giuseppe Mazzini sought to put together a coherent programme for a unitary Italian Republic.
- He formed a secret society called Young Italy for the dissemination of his goals.
Sardinia-Piedmont Takes the Lead:
- The failure of revolutionary uprisings in 1831 and 1848 meant that the mantle now fell on Sardinia-Piedmont under its ruler King Victor Emmanuel II to unify the Italian states through war.
- A unified Italy offered the possibility of economic development and political dominance to the ruling elites of this region.
- Chief Minister Cavour led the movement to unify the regions of Italy.
- He was neither a revolutionary nor a democrat but spoke French much better than Italian.
- Through a tactful diplomatic alliance with France engineered by Cavour, Sardinia-Piedmont succeeded in defeating the Austrian forces in 1859.
- A large number of armed volunteers under the leadership of Giuseppe Garibaldi joined the fray.
- In 1860, they marched into South Italy and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and succeeded in winning the support of the local peasants to drive out the Spanish rulers.
Victor Emmanuel II Proclaimed King of United Italy:
- In 1861 Victor Emmanuel II was proclaimed king of united Italy.
- However, much of the Italian population, among whom rates of illiteracy were very high, remained blissfully unaware of liberal-nationalist ideology.
- The peasant masses who had supported Garibaldi in southern Italy had never heard of Italia, and believed that ‘1a Talia’ was Victor Emmanuel’s wife.
3. The Strange Case of Britain – The Formation of a Nation-State
Prior to the Eighteenth Century, Britain Was Divided by Ethnic Identities:
- Britain did not have a British nation prior to the eighteenth century.
- The people of Britain primarily identified themselves based on their ethnic identities such as English, Welsh, Scot, or Irish.
- These ethnic groups had their own cultural and political traditions.
England’s Growing Power Led to the Formation of a Nation-State:
- As the English nation grew in wealth, importance, and power, it was able to extend its influence over the other nations of the islands.
- The English parliament seized power from the monarchy in 1688, which eventually led to the formation of a nation-state with England at its centre.
- The Act of Union in 1707 resulted in the formation of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain,’ which allowed England to impose its influence on Scotland.
- The British parliament was dominated by its English members.
The Suppression of Scotland’s Culture and Political Institutions:
- The growth of a British identity meant that Scotland’s distinctive culture and political institutions were systematically suppressed.
- The Catholic clans of the Scottish Highlands suffered terrible repression when they attempted to assert their independence.
- The Scottish Highlanders were forbidden to speak their Gaelic language or wear their national dress, and many were forcibly driven out of their homeland.
Ireland’s Struggle with Division and British Dominance:
- Ireland was a country deeply divided between Catholics and Protestants.
- The English helped the Protestants of Ireland establish their dominance over a largely Catholic country.
- Catholic revolts against British dominance were suppressed.
- After a failed revolt led by Wolfe Tone and his United Irishmen in 1798, Ireland was forcibly incorporated into the United Kingdom in 1801.
The Formation of a New ‘British Nation’:
- A new ‘British nation’ was forged through the propagation of a dominant English culture.
- The symbols of the new Britain, such as the British flag (Union Jack), the national anthem (God Save Our Noble King), and the English language, were actively promoted.
- The older nations survived only as subordinate partners in this union.
5. Visualising the Nation
Giving a Face to a Nation: The Personification of Nations through Female Allegories
- Representing a nation through visual arts poses a challenge
- Eighteenth and nineteenth-century artists found a solution by personifying nations
- Female figures were chosen to represent nations, becoming allegories of the nation
- Female allegories were also used to represent ideas like Liberty, Justice, and the Republic during the French Revolution
Personifying Nations as Female Allegories:
- Nations were portrayed as female figures in art during the 18th and 19th centuries
- Female form didn’t represent any particular woman but gave a concrete form to the abstract idea of the nation
- Female figure became an allegory of the nation
- French Revolution used female allegories to represent ideas such as Liberty, Justice, and the Republic
The Female Allegory of the Nation: Marianne:
- Marianne was the allegory of France during the 19th century
- The name Marianne underlined the idea of a people’s nation
- Marianne’s characteristics were drawn from those of Liberty and the Republic
- The red cap, tricolour, and cockade were some of Marianne’s attributes
- Statues of Marianne were erected in public squares as a symbol of national unity and identity
- Marianne’s image was marked on coins and stamps
The Female Allegory of the Nation: Germania:
- Germania was the allegory of the German nation during the 19th century
- Germania wore a crown of oak leaves in visual representations
- The German oak symbolized heroism
- Germania was used to inspire a sense of national identity and unity among Germans
- Personifying nations through female allegories was a solution to representing the abstract idea of a nation through visual arts
- Marianne and Germania were two popular female allegories of the nation in the 19th century
- These allegories were used to inspire a sense of national identity and unity among people
6. Nationalism and Imperialism
The 19th century saw the rise of nationalism in Europe. However, by the end of the century, nationalism became a narrow creed with limited ends. Nationalist groups became increasingly intolerant of each other and ever ready to go to war. The major European powers manipulated the nationalist aspirations of subject peoples in Europe to further their own imperialist aims.
Nationalism and its transformation in the late 19th century
- Nationalism in the early 19th century was idealistic and liberal-democratic.
- By the end of the century, it became a narrow creed with limited ends.
- Nationalist groups became intolerant of each other and were ready to go to war.
- European powers manipulated nationalist aspirations to further their imperialist aims.
Nationalism in the Balkans and the Ottoman Empire
- The Balkans was a region of geographical and ethnic variation comprising modern-day Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia, and Montenegro.
- The Ottoman Empire controlled a large part of the Balkans.
- The spread of the ideas of romantic nationalism in the Balkans together with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire made this region very explosive.
- The Ottoman Empire had sought to strengthen itself through modernization and internal reforms but with very little success.
- Balkan peoples based their claims for independence or political rights on nationality and used history to prove that they had once been independent but had subsequently been subjugated by foreign powers.
Balkan conflicts and big power rivalry:
- The Balkan area became an area of intense conflict as different Slavic nationalities struggled to define their identity and independence.
- Balkan states were fiercely jealous of each other and each hoped to gain more territory at the expense of the others.
- The Balkans also became the scene of big power rivalry among Russia, Germany, England, and Austro-Hungary.
- Each power was keen on countering the hold of other powers over the Balkans and extending its own control over the area.
- This led to a series of wars in the region and finally the First World War.
Nationalism and imperialism leading to disaster in Europe:
- Nationalism, aligned with imperialism, led Europe to disaster in 1914.
- Nationalist groups became intolerant of each other and were ready to go to war.
- European powers manipulated nationalist aspirations to further their imperialist aims.
- The Balkan conflicts were further complicated by big power rivalry.
Anti-imperial movements and nationalist struggles worldwide
- Many countries in the world which had been colonized by European powers in the nineteenth century began to oppose imperial domination.
- The anti-imperial movements that developed everywhere were nationalist, in the sense that they all struggled to form independent nation-states and were inspired by a sense of collective national unity forged in confrontation with imperialism.
- European ideas of nationalism were nowhere replicated, for people everywhere developed their own specific variety of nationalism.
- However, the idea that societies should be organized into ‘nation-states’ came to be accepted as natural and universal.